- Jes Bellamy
BIPOC Travel Influencers Setting the Tone
Most people may be surprised to know that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities represent the majority of travelers in the tourism industry. No, your eyes didn't deceive you reading that. According to Lindsey from The Seven Day Weekender, in 2018, young Black travelers spent $63 billion on travel. Additionally, Forbes reported that Hispanic Americans travel twice as much as non-Hispanic Americans and Kay from The Awkward Traveller stated that 57% of Asian Americans travel internationally yearly.
Still not convinced? In 2019, Tanya Christian from Ebony Magazine reported that Black travelers contributed nearly $160 billion to the market, Travel Pulse stated that Hispanic travelers spent $113.9 billion, and Statista.com found that Asian travelers spent about $254 billion in the market. Yet, even with high financial contributions to the industry, leading destinations and travel brands, like airline, cruise, and hotel companies, continue to ignore underrepresented groups within their marketing efforts.
When marginalized populations are excluded, whether deliberately or not, it alienates them and implies that they are unwelcome. As a result, a global network of BIPOC content creators are holding destinations and travel brands accountable for the lack of diversity within their marketing strategies. Additionally, rather than hopelessly waiting for travel brands to enhance diversity, they are relentlessly holding leading travel brands liable and disrupting the industry by telling their stories and demonstrating by example. They intend to diversify the travel industry and present opportunities for other BIPOC travelers worldwide.
Author Victoria Carty from Chapman University states that digital social media permits more varied narratives within marketing strategies, which influencers use to increase BIPOC travel and stimulate modern social movements, like the Black Travel Movement. Overall, the lack of representation in travel media has driven BIPOC communities to seek out influencers who have visited places they are interested in and are willing to share their experiences. As a result, by seeing online influencers traveling, BIPOC groups gain a sense of belonging within the industry and are inclined to travel more.
Through videos, blog posts, and photos, BIPOC travel influencers show other like-minded individuals the world. Since leading travel brands miss the mark on representing all walks of life within their marketing strategies, BIPOC content creators are creating counternarratives through social media and building communities to help educate other travelers about the issues they face abroad. Influencers from all demographics have spoken up and shared their experiences while traveling.
Among many others, some influencers setting the pace are: a Pakistani American named Nabila Ismail, who has a blog called Dose of Travel, Trisha V from the Philippines, whose blog is named PS, I'm On My Way, Jessica Nabongo, a blogger that is the first Black woman to travel to all 195 countries, and Oneika Raymond, a Black Travel Channel digital host, and acclaimed blogger. All of these ladies have dedicated the majority of their careers to redefining narratives online about BIPOC travelers.
Numerous travel companies have pledged to increase diversity; for example, travel brands have pledged to make DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) a part of their “DNA.” Martinique Lewis, a diversity in travel specialist and president of Black Travel Alliance, noticed that after the revolutionizing protests in 2020, many travel companies adopted new approaches towards diversity and implemented minor improvements. For instance, they have expanded the hiring of Black and Brown people. But the question is, are they hiring marginalized communities as tokens? Or do they actually care? This question will have to wait for another day.
In the end, Lewis believes that marketing tactics from travel brands can be improved and acknowledges that influencers are taking action and demanding more inclusivity within the tourism industry, pushing brands to adopt more multifaceted approaches. Some approaches include creating new marketing materials that represent diverse audiences. For instance, they can include BIPOC individuals in advertisements and hire keynote speakers from these communities for events and conferences to help marginalized groups feel recognized. And suppose these brands need help in doing so, then there is a plethora of BIPOC travel influencers leading by example, and they are willing to provide their influence to organizations to support all people feeling welcomed and recognized.
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